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Exact Replication of Biological Structures by Chemical Vapor Deposition of Silica


  • The authors would like to thank Stratford Butterfly Farm and Alan Stealey from Bristol Gardens for the generous supply of naturally deceased butterflies and live plants, respectively. Prof. Fritz Vollrath is gratefully acknowledged for supplying the spider silk. G.C. gratefully acknowledges the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) for a studentship.


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Silica coats for butterfly wings: The oxidation of silane with hydrogen peroxide is conducted on the surface of delicately structured biological specimens (templates), to produce a thin silica coating that leaves the underlying structure unharmed. Removal of the template by calcination leaves a precise replica of the original specimen (see SEM image of a silica replica obtained from a fly wing). The method is also proposed as a novel means of conservation for sensitive archaeological specimens.

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